Friday, January 17, 2020

{SQT} A Week in Nebraska

1. Big Toe Injury


David (2-1/2) dropped a wooden kitchen stool on his big toe Saturday night, injuring it badly. I've had several children bruise their toes or thumbs such that a bruise showed and the child lost the nail over weeks or months, but David's big toe was black within sixty seconds. He likely broke it, so the doc had us treat it as broken. And here's a little tip: if the child needs a little hole drilled in the nail to relieve pressure from the blood, the doctor we saw claims it needs to be done within a couple of hours of the injury and the next day is too late to bother . . . but you will end up being awake all night with the child crying in great pain!

You're welcome for my not sharing photos of his disgusting, black, malformed toe!






2. Six Days for our Nebraska Trip


You can click here to read about our trip to Nebraska.


3. Music Practice


We took our keyboard and two violins with us to continue music practice while on the road because the children had an upcoming recital as soon as we would return and competition season very fast upon us.



4. Reading


This week, I finished "The Brave Learner" by Julie Bogart. The negatives: She does not present a Christian worldview, so I disagree with her about the value of obedience. Also, she is more of an unschooler at heart, which is not my bent. The positives: A whole lot! There is so much inspirational and refreshing in this book, much to give a homeschooler a boost. She is also realistic (especially in the latter part of the book), not a pie-in-the-sky idealist.



And in God's perfect timing, I read the entirety of "As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning" by Richard John Neuhaus while on the trip to Nebraska for Grandpa's memorial. Someone had given this to me for Christmas, but the delivery was unknowingly delayed, so it showed up as a complete surprise to me a couple of days before I left for this trip whose whole theme was death. I strongly recommend this deceptively slim book of philosophy on death written by Neuhaus after his near brush with death when an undetected tumor exploded in his intestine and he underwent three surgeries and several months of recovery, as well as experienced a Near Death Experience. While it is written by a Catholic priest, it is deeply philosophical and I truly believe anyone could read it and appreciate it, even coming from a spiritual-but-not-at-all-Christian perspective. I am so enthusiastic about this book's message about how we are all dying and, in fact, begin dying from birth, I have an urge to start buying it for various friends.

I'm still in the midst of reading many books, but the latest two passionate reads are "Mother Culture" by Karen Andreola and "The Obesity Code" by Dr. Jason Fung. For read-alouds, we are almost done with "Phantom Tollbooth" and have started "Family from One End Street."

5. Miscellaneous Moments


Catching lizards before setting them free


6. Homeschool Planet


This is only my second week of using the electronic planning software Homeschool Planet and it is going well so far! I spent Christmas break learning how to use it and populating it with all our school plans through the end of the academic year, and then we used it for the first week back to school after Epiphany.

When I got back from a week in Nebraska, I went into Homeschool Planet to shift all our assignments forward.
  • Simple daily tasks like "Do spelling" four days per week were removed.
  • Assignments for me (Mom as teacher) like daily Latin and daily math were moved forward one week.
  • Assignments for online classes (other person as teacher) that are due regardless got shifted and piled onto Friday to complete all at once by the deadline.


Even though it was my first time, the whole process for four grades took me only 15 minutes! Next week, two of my students will be in D.C. exercising their civic rights at the March for Life, so I will practice shifting their assignments ahead of time. So far, this program is very helpful!

7. Joseph's Birthday!


Joseph turned seven, but it was on a travel day so we will celebrate this coming weekend.


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Visiting Nebraska for Grandpa's Funeral

Traveling to Nebraska


Chris took two days to drive to Nebraska with the girls and Joseph while I flew with my big 13-year-old helper and two littlest boys.

Packing each person's hats and gloves

Saying goodbye at oh-dark-thirty as the first crew left

The Road Crew had a great time playing car games, singing together (a lot of Beethoven's Wig songs!), and listening to "The Great Horn Spoon" on audio book.




Love note from 6-year-old to Mama

Mary always writes encouraging notes to the cleaning staff

They stopped for Mass at St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis, MO.





Meanwhile, I experienced one of the most stressful travel events in my memory!

1. The rush hour traffic caused the 24-minute drive to take almost an hour.

2. I tried to find Daily Parking, missed my exit, almost had a car accident, and used bad language in front of John, maybe for the first time--twice!

3. I looped around airport (more delay), got in the correct lane, and parked. Then our four-year-old got out of the car and vomited over all our assembled pieces of luggage and himself. More delay. I wiped off all luggage as best I could. I opened my suitcase to find Zofran to give Thomas--so glad I was prepared for many possible illnesses!

4. I discovered in confusion that I had to board a shuttle bus--more delay. I thought the entire point of my parking there per my husband's instructions was to walk a mere few feet from parking to departures. Turns out Chris told me park in hourly, not daily.

5. While getting on to an elevator, Thomas randomly tripped, hit his head on the wall corner, got a cut and a goose egg. He was hysterical but I had to sternly tell him to be brave and that we had to run. He gulped, asked for a hug, I gave one, and he dried his tears.

6. I tried to check in at self-guided screen. We were past the cut-off time, so I switched lines to customer service.  We were beyond cut off to check bags but man tried to anyway. I explained, choking back tears, that I was about to miss the flight to my grandfather's memorial.

7. At security, we were selected for not one, not two, but THREE random checks: my person, our stroller, and Thomas' backpack. The lady pulls everything out of the backpack, for example, every single pack of gummy snacks to swab them for explosives. She had to open my family size bag of M-and-Ms to dig through the candies to make sure there was not something deadly intermixed. I started crying, not for the first or last time. More delay.

8. We started running. We are not at the close terminal but the far one and 24 gates away. I held my four-year-old's hand and ran while he cried the whole way and I promised him candy and movies.

9. We boarded the plane last with 60 seconds before they shut the doors.





Tuesday in Nebraska

On Tuesday morning, we attended Mass at St. Francis of Assisi in Lincoln, a Mass which had been arranged ahead of time to be said for the repose of the soul of my Grandpa.



There was just enough snow on the ground to be fun for the children and stressful for Mama ("you will soak the only shoes you have with you!"), but it remained sunny and clear, but bitterly cold, while we were in town.



We spent the rest of the day visiting with family and enjoying dinner together.

Wednesday in Nebraska

The memorial went smoothly and beautifully, thanks to the competent organization of my aunt and the wonderful staff at the cemetery. You can read my grandfather's obituary here: he was a truly accomplished man and patriarch of our family.





The event opened with our daughters playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring--a piece they had decided they wanted to learn and taught to themselves for fun, with no involvement from me, over Christmas break.




Various family members spoke at the event: I also delivered a speech and our 13-year-old son read a literary excerpt.


Our 11-year-old wrote a poem in honor of Grandpa.




Chris generously took charge of the littlest boys for the event and they ended up sitting at the back and falling asleep for the duration!


After the memorial, we woke Thomas (4) and walked him to the dining room to eat, but after some long amount of time, we realized with fear that he was nowhere to be seen. We fanned out for a search . . . and then discovered that he had simply found a new couch and gone back to sleep!




Our extended family without its patriarch

All of Grandpa's girls


The family stayed for the inurment, where one family member chanted In Paradisum and then we all sang Amazing Grace--and we did not become Popsicles in the 30-degree wind, although it felt like it.




We enjoyed another family dinner together before having to give all our goodbye hugs.

Traveling Home from Nebraska


The Road Crew departed our rental home at 7:00 a.m.--when it was three degrees outside--and the Flight Crew wasn't far behind, leaving at 7:30. We had a more relaxing start, though, eating breakfast at Good Evans, which I highly recommend to anyone passing through Lincoln, Nebraska.

A homemade Pop-tart shared by the four of us

We were so distressed by being late when traveling to Lincoln that we ended up arriving at the airport two and a half hours early.

I look at these children and think, "How blessed I am!"
Unfortunately for me, when we checked in our suitcases, the staff promptly confiscated my stroller and said that, despite my having gate-checked it while traveling on five flights in the last six months, it was too big and I had to properly check it on this flight. That meant I had a big airport to traverse and a couple of hours to kill with a two-year-old who threw many tantrums on the carpet and then had to be slung over my shoulder and carried screaming.



The bulk of the flight was not bad at all, but it was trying for the twenty minutes ascending and twenty minutes descending when regulations required children two and older to be seated in their own seats and buckled--no sitting in Mama's cozy arms! David fought so hard bodily--no amount of toys, snacks, distraction, or entertainment worked--that I had to lean over and pin him down for the whole twenty minutes each time while he screamed.

I was just thinking to myself--maybe in too satisfied of a way--that having six kids makes me really not care what other people think about my screaming two-year-old. It is like water off a duck's back.

However, it turns out, I care a whole lot--and pridefully--what people think about my four-and-a-half-year-old's behavior, as God quickly showed me. After we landed and were queuing up like cattle in a chute to deplane, Thomas asked me where the rest of his Skittles were. Learning that his mother dared to eat the last handful of them, he, frankly, lost his mind. He wouldn't walk, collapsed on the floor, and screamed bloody murder. I am not strong enough to carry my backpack, my purse, Thomas at more than 40 pounds, and Thomas' backback (and John already had his backpack and David). I tried dragging Thomas down the aisle, my begging, pleading, and threatening while crowds stared and clucked and handed me back Thomas' shoes when he flung them off. I sat on the floor with him (numerous times through the airport), both pinning him down to my body and hugging him comfortingly. Yes, it turns out that not everything is water off a duck's back for me!

Because my stroller had been confiscated, I had to traverse the huge Charlotte airport with Thomas weeping and claiming, "I can't walk" the entire time. Then we could not find our luggage and had to walk up and down, up and down, the large baggage claim area--where there was not one single staff person to be found besides two drug-sniffing dogs and their handlers. We finally retrieved our luggage, took the bus back to the van (the bus I wouldn't have had to take if I had remembered my husband's instructions), and drove home through rush hour traffic again (an hour instead of 24 minutes), with my getting lost five separate times.

The trip was well worth it, but the travel was a bear this time!

Meanwhile, the Road Crew had stopped on Thursday at the convent of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, for Terce, Mass, and Confession, as well as shopping in the gift shop. They also stopped back at the McDonalds in Missouri where they had lost Mary's purse . . . and retrieved it from the kind staff!

I had all my chickadees under one roof safe and sound by Friday evening, praise God.

Friday, January 10, 2020

{SQT} Back to School


1. Vigil of Epiphany


Chris and I split Sunday Masses so he got to witness all the many folk who brought in containers for the blessing of Epiphany water. This ceremony lasts nearly an hour and contains many exorcisms, so, if you're a believe in holy water, this is the "high octane" stuff!


After Mass, John got a snake, which is grand fun for him.


We enjoyed hosting friends over after Mass for eating food and making music together. It was heartwarming and such a joy to watch many youth playing piano, violin, guitar and singing songs (in various languages!), all celebrating the Christ child while having wholesome fun together.

2. Feast of Epiphany


This year, the Feast of Epiphany fell on a Monday. We have opened presents in many various ways over the years and tried something new this year . . . because I could not complete all my duties and order gifts for our children in time for Christmas! Out of imperfections and failures comes good! We opened gifts from relatives and friends on Christmas Day, but saved gifts from within our immediate family for Epiphany day. In our family, we have long had a tradition of siblings drawing names for each other, so each sibling receives one "sibling gift," capped at about five dollars. The children each opened one sibling gift plus the one gift from their parents on Epiphany morning.


When Thomas (4) came downstairs and saw the twelve gift boxes, he admonished loudly, "This is too much, Mama! We are not a large family!"

But, seriously, this new method had some real benefits and I think we will do this purposefully next year. It allowed the children to more appreciate their gifts instead of being overwhelmed with so many gifts in one day. It give me a much calmer, slower two weeks (over Christmas break) to choose and order their gifts. It gave the kids longer to think about what gifts they would give each other. Lastly, it really ended the twelve days of Christmas in a significant way.


The top four children made me a very special Epiphany gift: a homemade wooden box! They holed up with tools in the garage for three to four hours during which I heard hammering and sawing. They even stained it! When they presented me the gift, I cried! This I will always treasure.




After the blessing of Epiphany water, which is always held on the Vigil of Epiphany, our family has a tradition of assembling home blessing kits for fellow parishioners. I didn't take a photo of "the minions" doing it this year, but you can envision a kitchen table full of kids pouring salt, snapping chalk, putting bits into bags, folding paper, and stapling.






3. Back to School

We started back to school Tuesday to continue for the second semester of the year. It is always daunting to get back into the school routine, but I do try a full week ahead to start enforcing early-to-bed and early-to-rise and I try to sit down and orient them to their daily lesson plans before Starting Day.

Our routine looks like this most days:

By 5:30-6:00 a.m., I'm awake and downstairs. During that hour, most kids wander downstairs. Things we usually do: Mama's prayers, empty dishwasher, wash any dirty dishes left out overnight, early risers are allowed to eat cold cereal, I will check email and do administrative tasks for the day, kids might watch TV. Kids about age 5+ are supposed to dress in their rooms before they even come downstairs--which for our homeschool means collared shirts and pants with belt loops or skirts with blouses.

7:00 a.m.: I go upstairs to shower, dress, and get the two littlest boys dressed, as well as make their beds. I'm finishing all that at 7:30 when I then roust any last sleepers out of bed. (7:30 is the latest our kids are allowed to sleep on a school day.) During this hour, there might even be kids playing outdoors: one of them likes to play hockey before school.

7:30 a.m.: I cook breakfast and serve it at 8:00. The children's "tickets" to eating breakfast is being dressed, having beds made, and having floors basically decent.

We say corporate (group) morning prayers and do religious read-alouds over breakfast, then clean up quickly. Often we clear tables and stack dirty dishes, leaving me to load dishes during a mid-morning break.

8:30-9:00 a.m.: School begins with group work. We do history together four mornings per week and, on the fifth day, group science study or group catechism.

By 9:30 or 10:00 a.m., I send the 7th and 5th graders to do independent work while I sit and guide subjects with the younger four. After some group memory work and singing, I send the 2- and 4-year-olds to play nearby so I can finish academic subjects with the 1st and 3rd graders. If they can finish their work by about 11:00 a.m. (which should be eminently possible if everyone is sweet, but you know how it goes!), then we could theoretically go on a walk before lunch (my big goal for this semester!), leaving behind the oldest two grades working independently.

11:30 a.m.: I start preparing lunch to serve by noon.

12:00: Serve lunch, might listen to some audio over lunch (e.g., Catholic Sprouts!). Tuck in 4-year-old for Quiet Time (audio CD and quiet toys), lay down 2-year-old for nap, older kids are on break till 1:00 p.m. I often don't clean up lunch till mid-afternoon: it would be nice if I required the older kids to clean up from lunch.

Around 1:00 p.m., we get back to work. Afternoons are variable due to activities, but I give my most attention to teaching the older kids during that time. There is still much management involved in their subjects.

Please, please, let school be done by 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.!

* * * * * 

Thomas (4) loves to do art independently and I can usually count on him putting in time working on art while I teach.



Teaching spelling simultaneously: I alternate dictating sentences from their separate books.


Homeschooling Tip: Last year, I combined spelling and penmanship. Maybe it takes others fewer years of homeschooling to figure out the obvious than it does me. I find that I must still teach penmanship formally for the first few years, but once penmanship is solid, then spelling becomes our penmanship. I instruct the children to write their spelling in their best cursive and then that will count as daily penmanship and I won't require them to do more (which is a big incentive!).


Mary (11) chatting with/entertaining her two-year-old brother while she does her math.


I do our daily religious reading while we eat breakfast . . . on this day, the morning offering prayer, reviewing the Carmelite rules of recreation, reading from the Character Calendar for the day, and reading a moral story from The Catechist.




Joseph (6) doing math
 We do a TAN history activity four mornings per week.


First grader reading

Two- and four-year-olds playing store while I teach

Doing a study of birds in winter using the No Sweat Nature Study, which we think is fantastic!


Thomas (4) fell asleep




4. Morning Walks

My goal this semester is to get the youngest children finished with school by around 11:00 so I can take them on a morning walk (get exercise! finally!) before I have to prepare lunch.





5. Building

The children have been building things feverishly all week! I love it, even with the mess in our garage!

Four- and six-year-olds hammering nails by themselves
Our almost-seven-year-old build a "cell phone" considering of a piece of wood with a hole bored out of it and a screw nailed into it (and later he drew buttons onto it). We don't buy noise-making toys or allow them into our home, and 13 years of experience shows me that this leads to a lot of creativity!



Another child built an outgoing letters box and two children have built secret gifts to give to others!

6. Miscellaneous Moments

A quiet moment at home, not posed--growing up so fast!

Thomas (4) just watched the 1954 "Robinson Crusoe" for the first time and second time and is already a huge fan!


Ready for Nerf battle!

7. Charlotte Symphony: Beethoven's Emperor Concerto


Chris' Epiphany present was tickets to see Beethoven's Emperor Concerto performed by the Charlotte Symphony. He had three charming companions for the evening!






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